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Today is the day, the day I receive a stepfather after a year in America, and after one year, two months, and exactly three days since the death of you and of Ethan.
Excitement and pure joy fills me completely at the thought of having a complete family again. Quickly, I jump out of bed and race to the bath to bathe. Once clean, I brush my vibrant, auburn hair and put on my bridesmaid dress. The aqua blue dress clings to my torso and loosens its grip on me toward my waist, frilling out in a silky, wavy pattern.
You would love it, but Ethan would despise it. Just thinking of the two of you and what you liked and didn’t like hurdles me back into the memory of the day you died. Pain fills me completely as I fall to my knees. Each segment of the memory comes to me as though they were waiting in the shadows for an opportunity to flood me over.
Ethan was running around the subatomic kitchen in our home in Italy with a steal bowl atop his head. He was only nine, and every thing about him seemed so pure, so innocent, so helpless. Mother scolded him for running while she cooked, and you told her to relax, that Ethan was only trying to amuse himself.
“If I had a lira for every time you said that, I would be rich,” Mother said in reply. Despite her cold tone, she had smiled while saying it and had kept cooking. Rosalie, your youngest daughter, got up from where she was sitting at the dinner table and took Ethan out side to play. For a second, the cool, musky fall air penetrated the aroma of the food, filling the room with the scent of the outdoors.
I turned toward you and nodded toward the door saying, “Let’s go with them.”
You nodded your head and followed me outside. Rosalie and Ethan were running about the yard, playing with the leather ball you had made out of the hides you received from the animals you hunted. I ran into the midst of their game, and assisted Rosalie as you assisted Ethan. Ethan darted around Rosalie and I with the ball, with his teammate in close pursuit.
Suddenly, a feeling, a hot as burning coal feeling, rushed through me when I saw what lay only about a small leap away from the two of them.
An Apennine wolf was crouched in the attack position. It looked as though it was starving, desperate to eat any thing it could sink its jaws into.
I wondered what it was doing here when I noticed a scratch on Ethan’s leg that was bleeding. Rosalie traced my gaze from the wolf to Ethan’s leg. All the color rushed from her face. At the same time, we both shouted out to you. Just in time, you turned and saw the wolf. You yelled for us to run and charged the leaping wolf, hoping to protect us. You were able to grab and pull on the wolf’s tail long enough for it to forget about Ethan, focusing on you.
Rosalie yelled at Ethan to run as she and I turned, dashing for the house. I could hear my quick footsteps, Rosalie’s not quite as fast footsteps, and barely the sound of Ethan’s slow run. We were only twenty yards away from the house when we heard you howl like you never had howled before. But, it only lasted a few seconds.
Then I could hear the fast beat of the wolf’s feet against the ground. I turned just in time to see your mangled body in a lifeless heap behind Ethan before the wolf pounced on him too, ripping and tearing him apart. A second later, I turned my head back toward the house and heard the piercing scream that shattered my heart into minuscule pieces.
“FASTER, ROSA, FASTER!” I yelled at her. We were only two feet away from the back door when the sound of the wolf’s feet against the ground sounded again behind us. With milliseconds to spare, we ripped open the door and dashed inside, slamming it shut behind us.
“MOTHER!” we both yelled as we ran up the stairs. Taking charge, I commanded Rosalie and Mother into the emergency safe room.
Once inside, I checked Rosalie and myself for injuries, finding only a scrape from playing ball on Rosalie. I tended to the scrape and turned toward Mother in order to explain what had just occurred. Her whine of horror was masked by the crashing sound of the back door breaking.
Placing a finger to my mouth, I listened intently to hear where the wolf was. I could hear him walking around, and after many frantic heartbeats, I heard the sound of his paws on the stairs and atop the rubble of what used to be the door.
The three of us waited a little longer until we left the safe room, just to be sure the beast was gone. Exiting the safe room, I checked the whole house to make sure that the wolf was gone. After I deemed it all clear, Mother, Rosalie and I went outside to morn our dead. I didn’t dare look at Ethan’s mangled body for more than necessary, and proceeded toward your body. As I held his head in my hands, I cried for the first time in ten years. Now it was all up to me. I was the eldest child, and had to take up your spot in our family to keep it running. I needed to take over the head of my family, in memory, in salute, and in respect of you and Ethan.
“Caterina?” Rosalie’s voice drags me back to the present. I open my eyes to find tears clouding my vision. As I wipe my eyes dry, I stand to face Rosalie. “Are you ready?” she asks.
“Yes,” I say, grateful that I no longer have to share the burden of taking up the role as the leader of our family any longer. Wherever you are now, I hope you and Ethan are proud of me, proud that in your absence I took over the family and stopped us all from loosing our minds.